Film directors work with producers, screenwriters, set designers, camera and sound crews and art directors. The film director holds the ultimate decisions on all aspects of the production. The director also coaches the actors prior to shooting, sets the filming schedule and works in the post-production editing process to finalise the scene selection, music and sound effects. The assistant director works to help keep the shooting on the schedule set by the director and producers.
Studio Film Work
Movie work for major studio releases involves a budget for hiring actors and staff, including the director and all assistant directors. The budget also projects any costs for sets, costumes and pre- and post-production work. Directors of large film projects hire their own assistant film directors and frequently work with a core staff that includes assistant directors on more than one film. Assistants who work as the lead assistant, formally titled the First Assistant Director, organise shooting schedules and hold the responsibility for keeping the film on schedule. Members of the Directors Union earn no less than a weekly salary of £3,062 for studio work as a first director, with additional pay for location work. Second director pay ranges from £1,120 to £1,951 for weekly studio work. Pay involves periodic assignments; assistant directors can go without pay from film work for weeks or months at a time when not tapped for an assistant position.
Independent-Release Film Work
Assistant film directors also work on projects funded outside major studio work. Independently funded films collecting financial backing from investors typically pay film staff less than the amounts paid to workers on big-budget studio releases; some even offer a pay based on a percentage of the future box office profits. Assistant directors on these projects occasionally work for minimal salaries for the experience of working on an actual movie set with other professionals. Assistant directors working in positions with titles lower than first assistant director occasionally work without pay for small independent releases.
Educational Film and Short Direction
Assistant directors on films produced for educational uses wear many hats on the production crew, including film promotion, and work on pre- and post-production in editing and promotion. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported director salaries in 2008 as £20.10 an hour for work outside the major film studios. Assistant directors earn less than this hourly figure. Assistant film directors with membership in the Directors Guild earned £7,664 for work on film shorts in 2011-12.
Directors Union Pay Scales
The Directors Union and Directors Guild represent members working as directors and assistant directors in major film production. Members join with referrals and approvals from other members. The two groups set minimum pay standards for work in various types of directing and for various film locations, including studio and location work. The detailed union pay scales include separate pay for single- or multiple-camera productions and work with large film casts. Well-known union and guild directors in first assistant director positions earn significantly more than the published base pay.